Pellissippi State student animating his future

Positively Tennessee

A grant funded by the Office of Disability Employment Policy is helping college students with disabilities reach their potential in the classroom and eventually at a job they enjoy. This is something that could help if you have a child who is struggling.

Zachary Puccio is 22, and as a senior at Pellissippi State Community College, he finally feels at home.
After years of struggling in school, he has discovered what he wants to do with his life.

The door opened for Puccio in the school’s video production department. It was welcome news for him after years of academic struggles due to ADHD.

“I can’t sit still for very long.. My mind will wander, especially if I’m doing a paper or something like that,” Puccio said. “I’ll sit down and say, ‘Hey, let’s do the paper,, and then, my mind’s gone,”

Puccio is now thriving, working toward a future in 3D animation, thanks to the grant-based Universal Pathways to Employment Program or UPEP at Pellissippi State that helps him and other students with disabilities work on a plan for success.

Melissa Van Dyke, business liaison at Pellissippi working with UPEP, also chairs Knoxville Area Employment Consortium. She met Puccio in 2013 and says he is a different young man today.

“He has really worked very, very hard. He has taken advantage of all of the services that UPEP has offered him. He’s used the career counseling, the career coaches, and academic coaches that we have provided,” she says.

Puccio agrees. 

“They help you stay on track, they teach you time management, and basic essentials for college, which, coming into, I did not have,” he said.

They are essentials for college and the workplace.

“To see where he is and how focused and how he wants to take advantage of every opportunity – to be able to be involved in his degree of choice is a truly amazing thing. And that’s what we’re here for,” Van Dyke said.

For more information about this program and resources for employers looking to include people with disabilities on their staff, visit the Knoxville Area Employment Consortium website. 

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